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A lottery, i.e. a drawing of lots for a prize, is a popular form of gambling. Some states, such as those under Islamic law, forbid it, while others condone it to the extent of organizing a national lottery.

Countries with a national lottery


Lotteries come in many formats. The prize can be fixed cash or goods. In this format there is risk to the organizer if insufficient tickets are sold. The prize can be a fixed percentage of the receipts. A popular form of this is the "50-50" draw where the organizers promise that the prize will be 50% of the revenue. The prize may be guaranteed to be unique where each ticket sold has a unique number. Many recent lotteries allow purchases to select the numbers on the lottery ticket resulting in the possibility of multiple winners.

Lotteries have been referred to as a "tax on stupidity" by social commentators as the odds of winning are astronomically low. Given the payoff structure, the maximum "revenue to risk ratio" occurs with the purchase of a single ticket; purchasing additional tickets does not proportional increase the expected value of the total purchase.

Lottery in the United States

In the United States, the existence of lotteries is subject to the laws of each state; there is no national lottery. The first state lottery in the U.S. was established in the state of New Hampshire in 1964; since then, lotteries have sprung up in over half of the states in the U.S. On October 8, 1970, New York held the first million dollar lottery drawing.

The first modern interstate lottery in the U.S. was Tri-State Lotto. Tri-State Lotto was formed in 1985 and linked the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. In 1988, the Multi-State Lottery Association was formed with Oregon, Iowa, Kansas, Rhode Island, West Virginia and the District of Columbia as its charter members; it is best known for its "Powerball" drawing, which is designed to build up very large jackpots. Another interstate lottery, The Big Game (now called Mega Millions), was formed in 1996 by the states of Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan and Virginia as its charter members.

Other interstate lotteries include: Hot Lotto, Lotto South, and Wild Card 2. For more detailed information on U.S. lotteries, see Lottery (U.S.)

See also: Keno